Cigarettes are History - I finally Quit Smoking

A more than decade long smoker has finally quit.  Damian Boyd talks about how he began smoking and, retrospectively, why he was smoking.  Smoking, he said, was an excuse to "step outside,"  enabling him to avoid facing the real issues. Cigarettes and smoking provided a distraction, a break, an option for dealing with stress.  All the while ...

Damian SmokingI Finally Quit Smoking!

Although it's been a long, long time, I still remember well my first cigarette.

 It was the Summer of 99, I was thirteen years old, and I had just discovered Rock and Roll. My mother sent me to 4H camp out in Fitchburg for a week.

I was excited, but I was also alone and had no friends. So I used my teenage logic to come up with a plan to be pretty f-in cool: pretend
I was some kinda badass from the Big City who smoked a ton of cigarettes and therefore was generally much more badass than the Fitchburg kids.

I walked up to the "cool" kids, who were all like 16 or 17 (whoa!).  I confessed I was dying for a cigarette (ha!), asking if anyone had one to spare. It worked. I was in. I was cool. Smoking was cool. But smoking was disgusting, it made me sick, and it made me smell.

Nothing about that has changed. Cigarettes still make you sick, and they still make you smell. Conclusion: I allowed cigarettes to change ME. LAME. However, at that age, change was normal and I didn't smoke seriously, as in I wasn't addicted. I'm pretty sure I gave it up just as soon as my mother caught me around 9th grade. By then I had been seen smoking enough times to establish my reputation.

Enjoyable Cigarettes - First & Last

Being a distinct occasion from the first time I TRIED a cigarette, I clearly recall the first time I actually ENJOYED one - the one I had when I got off the plane in Amsterdam Schipol, circa Fall of 2005.

I was 18 or 19 years old and in a foreign country with a pocket full of money. Now that I think of it, it was my first time smoking a cigarette inside a building. Also, it was a European cigarette - better in quality. I sat in the airport, had myself a Zalman Broodje, an espresso and a glass of fresh squeezed OJ.  I smoked myself a Samson and I wondered half seriously if you could buy weed in the airport. There was a casino, so why the hell not? It was great. The place was classy and modern and European, and it was certainly relaxing after a six hour flight across the Atlantic.  So for one reason or another, I have smoked ever since.

I also remember well the best cigarette I've EVER had. It was about three or four months ago.  Skiing for the first time in ten years, I got a few hours of exercise in the fresh mountain air.  Afterwards, I remember smoking a cigarette in my car while waiting for a steak and cheese from Bretton Woods Station.  Smoking that cigarette had a relaxing effect on me.  And the steak and cheese was the best I could remember in a long time, too.  But the next time I went skiing, smoking wasn't the same. I had to conclude that what made that cigarette so good wasn't the cigarette itself but the afterglow I felt from having a great time skiing. 

Cigarettes - An Empty Routine

So there you have it. Out of the thousands and thousands of cigarettes I have smoked, I only enjoyed those two, and that was entirely because of the setting, not because of the cigarettes themselves.

All the other cigarettes were the proverbial "chasing a high". Even the obligatory post sex cigarette no longer had its charm, but instead felt like empty routine. That's what cigarettes had become to me: an empty routine. I chain smoked in the car on the way to work. I ritually took smoke breaks at work. I finished the pack on the way home. 15-20 cigarettes a day, and I didn't enjoy a single one.

Smoking was an excuse, a reason to step outside, to stop what I was doing and take a five minute break. Cigarettes were, in theory, a way to relax. In reality, as a smoker I never relaxed, and I never enjoyed the cigarette.

Cigarettes were also something I could turn to when I felt stressed out or my temper began to flare. I thought falsely that cigarettes enabled me to deal with stress. The reality is that they did the opposite. Cigarettes only enabled me to continue to be stressed out, because I had a readily available, go-to cure for situations I found stressful. Instead of simply learning how to deal with and not be annoyed by silly situations, I could simply run away and have a cigarette. Vicious cycle.

Cigarettes are a crutch.  They gave me an excuse to be a nervous wreck of a person, and that's not smoking for enjoyment. How often have you watched a stressed out smoker say: "I need a cigarette."

WRONG! You don't need a cigarette.  You need to quit smoking.
You need to chill out and learn how to deal with life.

Quitting the Habit

Now I have to admit that I haven't worked a day in almost two months, or been to a bar or a party in several weeks as well. I honestly don't think I would have been able to quit if I had been working or hanging out. Work was not only a damn good reason to smoke, it was full of enablers who would readily supply me with a cigarette if I failed to provide my own. The same is true of a house party or a bar. Of course I always had the option of saying "no", but we all know that's not how addiction works.

Quitting has been simultaneously one of the most difficult and one of the easiest things I've ever done. I've tried countless times, just like every other smoker. But the determining factors this time around were
I worked too much, too long, and my way to cope with the lack of food, sleep, or recreation was to smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, and then work some more.

Smoking and working were synonymous to me. Even for the first week I stayed home, I couldn't conceive of going out to my driveway to work on my car because I didn't have any cigarettes to smoke. I was in the grip of an addiction.  Work was the primary cause and enabler. For you, it may be something totally different. But until you realize WHY you are addicted, you will never be able to quit. This is the most important step in the whole process.

In Conclusion

I still love the thought of smoking, at least theoretically, and probably always will. It seems to me a good smoke is like a good drink, a good meal or anything made in Italy; it's just plain good.

But the second most important part of the process of quitting was realizing that NONE of the cigarettes I was smoking were actually good. I was compulsively chasing an impossible high while at the same time wasting my money, destroying my health and gaining absolutely nothing out of it.

Actually I was losing a lot - my money, my stamina, my sense of taste and my sense of smell.

I look back now and I can see myself in a way I couldn't see before. Cigarettes made me feel bad but I didn't know just how bad until I quit.   Looking ahead, I can now see my life differently - a little clearer - smoke free, and I won't have to clean the windshield!

Author:  Damian Boyd

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Posted: April 21, 2014    Nancy J Conrad